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Researchers identify four causes of “Zoom fatigue” and their simple solutions


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Even when more people log on to popular video chat platforms to connect with colleagues, family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanford researchers have a warning for you: These video calls are likely to bother you.

Encouraged by the recent rise in video conferencing, communications professor Jeremy Bailenson, founder of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), investigated the psychological consequences of spending hours a day on these platforms. Just as “Googling”

; is similar to any web search, the term “Zooming” has become ubiquitous and a generic verb replacing video conferencing. Virtual meetings have skyrocketed, with hundreds of millions happening daily, as social distancing protocols have kept people physically apart.

In the first peer-reviewed article that systematically deconstructs Zoom fatigue from a psychological perspective, published in the journal Technology, mind and behavior On February 23, Bailenson took the medium apart and assessed Zoom on the individual technical aspects. He has identified four consequences of prolonged video chats that he says contribute to the feeling known as “Zoom exhaustion.”

Bailenson stressed that his goal is not to destroy any particular video conferencing platform – he appreciates and uses tools like Zoom regularly – but to highlight how exhausting current video conferencing technology implementations are and to propose interface changes, many of which are easy to implement. Furthermore, he makes suggestions to consumers and organizations on how to utilize the current features of video conferencing to reduce fatigue.

“Video conferencing is a good thing for external communication, but just think about the medium – just because you can use video, does not mean you have to,” Bailenson said.

Below are four main reasons why video chats fatigue people, according to the study. Readers can also fill out a questionnaire to see where they land on a Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale (ZEF) Scale.

Four reasons why

1) Excessive amount of close contact with eyes is very intense.

Both the amount of eye contact we participate in on video chats, as well as the size of the faces on the screens are unnatural.

In a regular meeting, people will look at the speaker differently, take notes or look elsewhere. But on Zoom conversations, everyone looks at everyone, all the time. A listener is treated verbally like a speaker, so even if you do not speak once in a meeting, you still look at faces staring at you. The amount of eye contact increases dramatically. “Social anxiety about public speaking is one of the biggest phobias in our population,” Bailenson said. “When you stand up there and everyone is staring at you, it’s a stressful experience.”

Another source of stress is that depending on the screen size and whether you are using an external monitor, faces on video conferencing may seem too large for comfort. “Generally speaking, for most layouts, if it’s a one-on-one conversation when you’re with colleagues or even strangers on video, you see their face in a size that simulates a personal room that you usually experience when You’ll be with someone intimate, “Bailenson said.

When the face of others is so close to us in real life, our brain interprets it as an intense situation that will either lead to mating or to conflict. “What actually happens when you use Zoom for many, many hours is you in this hyper-agitated state,” Bailenson said.

Solution: Until the platforms change the interface, Bailenson recommends taking Zoom out of the full-screen option and reducing the size of the Zoom window relative to the screen to minimize face size, and to use an external keyboard to allow an increase in the personal space bubble between itself and the grid.

2) Seeing yourself during video chats all the time in real time is tiring.

Most video platforms show a square of how you look on camera during a chat. But it’s unnatural, Bailenson said. “In the real world, if someone was following you around with a mirror all the time – so while talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you saw yourself in a mirror, it would just be crazy. No man would ever consider it, ”he added.

Bailenson cited studies that show that when you see a reflection of yourself, you are more critical of yourself. Many of us now watch video chats for many hours every day. “It taxes us. It’s stressful. And there’s a lot of research showing that there are negative emotional consequences to seeing yourself in a mirror.”

Solution: Bailenson recommends that platforms change the standard practice of transmitting video to both themselves and others, when it only needs to be sent to others. Meanwhile, users should use the “hide self-view” button, which can be accessed by right-clicking on their own image when they see their face is framed correctly in the video.

3) Video chatting dramatically reduces our normal mobility.

Personal and audio phone conversations allow people to walk around and move. But with video conferencing, most cameras have a specific field of view, which means that a person generally has to stay in the same place. Movement is restricted in ways that are not natural. “There is a growing body of research now that says that when people move, they perform better cognitively,” Bailenson said.

Solution: Bailenson advises people to think more about the room they are in video conferencing, where the camera is located and whether things like an external keyboard can help create distance or flexibility. For example, an external camera further away from the screen will allow you to pace and doodle in virtual meetings, just as we do in real life. And of course, turning off the video periodically during meetings is a good rule of thumb to set for groups, just to give themselves a short, non-verbal rest.

4) The cognitive load is much higher in video chats.

Bailenson notes that in normal face-to-face interaction, non-verbal communication is quite natural, and each of us makes and interprets natural movements and non-verbal cues unconsciously. But in video chats, we have to work harder to send and receive signals.

Bailenson said that people have actually taken one of the most natural things in the world – a personal conversation – and turned it into something that involves a lot of thought: “You have to make sure your head is framed. In the middle of the video. If you want to show someone “If you agree with them, you have to nod excessively or put your thumb up. It gives cognitive strain when you use mental calories to communicate.”

Movements can also mean different things in a video conferencing context. A glance from the side of someone during a personal meeting means something completely different than a person on a video chat grid looking outside the screen of their child who just walked into the home office.

Solution: Take a “sound only” break during long meetings. “This is not only that you turn off the camera to take a break from having to be non-verbally active, but also to turn your body away from the screen,” Bailenson said, “so that for a few minutes you are not suffocated by movements such as is perceptually realistic, but socially meaningless. “

Many organizations – including schools, corporations, and government agencies – have contacted Stanford’s communications researchers to better understand how to create best practices for their particular video conferencing setup and how to come up with institutional guidelines. Bailenson – with Jeff Hancock, founder of the Stanford Social Media Lab; Géraldine Fauville, former postdoctoral fellow at VHIL; Mufan Luo; graduate student at Stanford; and Anna Queiroz, postdoctoral fellow at VHIL – responded by developing the Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale, or ZEF Scale, to measure how much fatigue people experience in the workplace from video conferencing.

The scale, described in a recent, not yet peer-reviewed paper published on the preprint website SSRN, researches how to measure fatigue from interpersonal technology, as well as what causes fatigue. The scale is a questionnaire of 15 articles, which is freely available, and which has now been tested across five separate studies in the last year with over 500 participants. It raises questions about a person’s general exhaustion, physical exhaustion, social exhaustion, emotional exhaustion and motivational exhaustion. Some examples of questions include:

How exhausted do you feel after a video conference? How annoyed do your eyes feel after a video conference? How much do you tend to avoid social situations after video conferencing? How emotionally drained do you feel after a video conference? How often do you feel too tired to do other things after a video conference?

Hancock said that results from the scale can help change technology so that stress factors are reduced.

He notes that people have been here before. “When we first had elevators, we did not know if we were going to stare at each other or not in that room. More recently, equestrian sharing has raised the question of whether you are talking to the driver or not, or whether you want to get behind the seat or the passenger seat,” Hancock explained. “We had to develop ways to make it work for us. We are in that time now with video conferencing, and understanding the mechanisms will help us understand the optimal way of doing things for different settings, different organizations and different types of meetings. “

“Hopefully, our work will help uncover the roots of this problem and help people adapt their video conferencing practices to alleviate ‘Zoom Exhaustion,'” added Fauville, now an assistant professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. can also inform designers of video conferencing platforms to challenge and re-evaluate some of the paradigms on which video conferencing has been built. ”

Zoom adds video conferencing accessibility features

More information:
Bailenson, JN (2021). Non-verbal overload: A theoretical argument for the causes of zoom fatigue. Technology, mind and behavior, 1 (3). doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000030

Provided by Stanford University

Citation: Researchers Identify Four Causes of “Zoom Fatigue” and Their Simple Corrections (2021, February 23,) Retrieved February 23, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-fatigue-simple.html

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